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Thursday, Aug. 26th 2021


Every student appeal case is unique but many cases share common fact patterns and themes. The fundamental dichotomy has to do with whether the dismissal was “academic” or “disciplinary.” Dismissals described as involving ‘professionalism violations’ are a hybrid and can be either academic, disciplinary, or both. Whether one’s dismissal was based on academic achievement performance, disciplinary violations, or professionalism violations, the role of a forensic psychologist can be critical to the success of the student’s appeal.

A thorough psychological evaluation involves the psychologist obtaining detailed information about the student’s history; record of academic achievement; official charges of academic, disciplinary, or professionalism concerns or misconduct; prior medical history; prior diagnoses of learning or behavioral disability; official requests for disability accommodation and communications between the student and the educational institution. After a thorough interview, the psychologist can determine what psychological testing is appropriate.

The goal of our firm in referring a client to a forensic psychologist is to determine if there are mitigating factors relevant to a student’s performance or conduct that may provide a basis for a dean or appeal committee to reconsider the dismissal decision. The forensic psychological assessment can highlight the failure to provide adequate disability accommodation. It can highlight pathology which explains or mitigates behavioral issues. It can recommend treatment options to allow the student to qualify for readmission. It can reassure a dean or appeal committee that the student has no underlying pathology to believe that he or she would be a danger to themselves or others.

It has become more common for medical schools which have a concern about a student’s “fitness for duty” to require an intensive and expensive psychological evaluation. We recommend that any student who has been identified by their college or university as having an academic or behavioral issue that might result in dismissal, consider getting a psychological evaluation. Of course, not every dismissal case justifies a psychological evaluation but often an examination of the root causes for academic failure or misconduct leads to a successful argument on appeal. For more information on obtaining a psychological evaluation, contact Clifford Cohen (cac@studentrightslawyers.com) or Andrew Duncan (ad@studentrightslawyers.com).

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